Even if you live in New York, it’s tough to secure tickets to the big films of the New York Film Festival (unless you have a Film Society of Lincoln Center membership). However, almost half of the films will be coming to theaters in the next few months to qualify for an Academy Award. Would you like to be notified when it comes to theaters? Click the link to GoWatchIt, sign up for a free account and you can add it to your queue. They’ll send you an email to let you know. Pretty amazing.
- 10/2 – Heaven Knows What – Directed by Josh Safdie, Ben Safdie. Starring Eleonore Hendricks, Arielle Holmes, Caleb Landry Jones, Ron “Necro” Braunstein, and Yuri Pleskun
- 10/3 – The Blue Room – Directed by Mathieu Amalric. Starring Mathieu Amalric, and Léa Drucker
- 10/3 – Gone Girl – Directed by David Fincher, Starring Rosamund Pike, Ben Affleck, Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris, and Carrie Coon
- 10/9 – Jauja – Directed by Lisandro Alonso. Starring Viggo Mortensen, and Ghita Nørby
- 10/10 – ’71 – Directed by Yann Demange. Starring Jack O’Connell, Sean Harris, Paul Anderson, Sam Reid, and Sam Hazeldine
- 10/10 – The Decent One – Directed by Vanessa Lapa
- 10/16 – Whiplash – Directed by Damien Chazelle. Starring Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist, Paul Reiser, and Austin Stowell
- 10/17 – Birdman – Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Starring Michael Keaton, Lindsay Duncan, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, and Andrea Riseborough
- 10/17 – Listen Up Philip – Directed by Alex Ross Perry. Starring Jason Schwartzman, Elisabeth Moss, Jonathan Pryce, Krysten Ritter, and Josephine de la Baume
- 10/24 – Life of Riley – Directed by Alain Resnais. Cast: Sabine Azéma, Hippolyte Girardot, Caroline Silhol, Michel Vuillermoz, Sandrine Kiberlain and André Dussollier. A Kino Lorber Release.
- 10/29 – The 50 Year Argument – Directed by Martin Scorsese, David Tedeschi. Starring Bob Silvers
- 10/31 – Mr Turner – Directed by Mike Leigh. Starring Timothy Spall, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Jamie Thomas King, Lesley Manville, and Lee Ingleby
- 11/5 – National Gallery – Directed by Frederick Wiseman
- 11/14 – Foxcatcher – Directed by Bennett Miller. Starring Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, Channing Tatum, Sienna Miller, and Anthony Michael Hall
- 12/1 – Clouds of Sils Maria – Directed by Olivier Assayas. Starring Chloë Grace Moretz, Kristen Stewart, Juliette Binoche, and Brady Corbet
- 12/10 – Maps to the Stars – Directed by David Cronenberg. Starring Robert Pattinson, Julianne Moore, John Cusack, and Sarah Gadon
- 12/12 – Inherent Vice – Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Josh Brolin, and Benicio Del Toro
- 3/1/15 – Sunshine Superman – Directed by Marah Strauch. Starring Carl Boenish
Heaven Knows What
Josh & Benny Safdie, USA, 2014, DCP, 93m
Harley (Arielle Holmes) is madly in love with Ilya (Caleb Landry Jones). She’s sure he loves her just as much, if only he could express it. Both of them are heroin addicts, kids who pretend to be heavy-metal rockers but spend their time scuffling, arguing, and preying on each other as they wander around New York looking for a fix and the chump change to pay for it. The script, based on a Holmes’s memoir and written by the Safdies with Ronald Bronstein, is a miracle of economy. Sean Price Williams’s cinematography expresses the clouded vision of kids who can’t imagine how invisible they are to the New Yorkers who take their homes and jobs for granted. And the Safdie Brothers, in their toughest and richest movie, direct a cast composed largely of first-time actors so that they disappear into their characters, horrify us, and break our hearts.
The Blue Room / La chambre bleue
Mathieu Amalric, France, 2014, DCP, 76m
French with English subtitles
A perfectly twisted, timeless noir, Mathieu Amalric’s adaptation of Georges Simenon’s domestic crime novel also tips its hat to Alfred Hitchcock/Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train. A country hotel’s blue room is the scene of erotic rapture, but the adulterous man (Amalric) and woman (a boldly sexual Stéphanie Cléau, co-author of the script with Amalric) who meet there have different visions of their future. She is more obsessed than he, and his misunderstanding of the madness in her desire will destroy him and all he holds dear. Amalric’s direction is brutally spare, as is his performance of a man caught in a vise—a situation of his own making. The classic aspect ratio (1:33) and Grégoire Hetzel’s turbulent, insistent score heighten the sense of entrapment. Léa Drucker as the deceived wife and Cléau as the desperate mistress make strong impressions, but Amalric, who has the most eloquent eyes in contemporary cinema and uses them here to convey lust, guilt, bewilderment, and the dawning realization that he is a pawn in a malignant game, is unforgettable. A Sundance Selects release.
David Fincher, USA, 2014, DCP, 150m
David Fincher’s film version of Gillian Flynn’s phenomenally successful best seller (adapted by the author) is one wild cinematic ride, a perfectly cast and intensely compressed portrait of a recession-era marriage contained within a devastating depiction of celebrity/media culture, shifting gears as smoothly as a Maserati 250F. Ben Affleck is Nick Dunne, whose wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) goes missing on the day of their fifth anniversary. Neil Patrick Harris is Amy’s old boyfriend Desi, Carrie Coon (who played Honey in Tracy Letts’s acclaimed production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) is Nick’s sister Margo, Kim Dickens (Treme, Friday Night Lights) is Detective Rhonda Boney, and Tyler Perry is Nick’s superstar lawyer Tanner Bolt. At once a grand panoramic vision of middle America, a uniquely disturbing exploration of the fault lines in a marriage, and a comedy that starts black and keeps getting blacker, Gone Girl is a great work of popular art by a great artist. A 20th Century Fox and Regency Enterprises release.
Lisandro Alonso, Argentina/Denmark/France/Mexico/USA/Germany/Brazil, 2014, DCP, 108m
Danish and Spanish with English subtitles
A work of tremendous beauty and a source of continual surprise, Alonso’s first film since 2008’s Liverpool is also his first period piece (set during the Argentinian army’s Conquest of the Desert in the 1870s), his first film with international stars (led by Viggo Mortensen), and his first screenplay with a co-writer (poet and novelist Fabián Casas). But the emphasis, as in all his work, is on bodies in landscapes. Danish military engineer Gunnar Dinesen (Mortensen, in a Technicolor-bright cavalry uniform) traverses a visually stunning variety of Patagonian shrub, rock, grass, and desert on horseback and on foot in search of his teenage daughter (Viilbjørk Agger Malling), who has eloped with a new love. Alonso’s style reaches new heights of sensory attentiveness and physicality, driving the action toward a thrilling conclusion that transcends the limits of cinematic time and space.
Yann Demange, UK, 2014, DCP, 99m
A riveting thriller set in the mean streets of Belfast over the course of 24 hours, ’71 brings the grim reality of the Troubles to vivid, shocking life. Within days of being posted to Northern Ireland in a divided province that would soon turn into a war zone after January 1972’s Bloody Sunday, squaddie Gary (Jack O’Connell) finds himself trapped and unarmed in hostile territory when a house raid provokes a riot. Running for his life as the lines between friend and foe become increasingly blurred, Gary gets a baptism of fire and we get a stark, eye-opening look at the dirty war that tore Northern Ireland apart. Suggesting an update of Carol Reed’s classic Odd Man Out, this tough, compact suspenser is tightly written by Black Watch playwright Gregory Burke and handled with a dynamic, vigorous energy by debut director Yann Demange. A Roadside Attractions release.
Damien Chazelle, USA, 2014, DCP, 105m
A pedagogical thriller and an emotional S&M two-hander, Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash is brilliantly acted by Miles Teller as an eager jazz drummer at a prestigious New York music academy and J.K. Simmons as the teacher whose method of terrorizing his students is beyond questionable, even when it gets results. Dubbed “Full Metal Jacket at Juilliard” at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award, Chazelle’s jazz musical was developed from his short film of the same name, which premiered at Sundance the previous year. The live jazz core that is fused with Justin Hurwitz’s ambient score, the blood-on-the-drum-kit battle between student and teacher, and the dazzling filmmaking will keep your pulse rate elevated from beginning to end. A kinesthetic depiction of performance anxiety—you don’t need to be a musician to feel it—Whiplash also presents us with a moral issue open to debate. A Sony Pictures Classics release.
Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, USA, 2014, DCP, 119m
In Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s big, bold, and beautifully brash new movie, one-time action hero Riggan Thomson (a jaw-dropping Michael Keaton), in an effort to be taken seriously as an artist, is staging his own adaptation of Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. As Thomson tries to get his perilous undertaking in shape for the opening, he must contend with a scene-hogging narcissist (Edward Norton), a vulnerable actress (Naomi Watts), and an unhinged girlfriend (Andrea Riseborough) for co-stars; a resentful daughter (Emma Stone); a manager who’s about to come undone (Zach Galifianikis)… and his ego, the inner demon of the superhero that made him famous, Birdman. Iñárritu’s camera magically prowls, careens, and soars in and around the theater, yet remains alive to the most precious subtleties and surprises between his formidable actors. Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance is an extravagant dream of a movie, alternately hilarious and terrifying, powered by a deep love of acting, theater, and Broadway—a real New York experience. A Fox Searchlight Pictures and New Regency release.
Listen Up Philip
Alex Ross Perry, USA, 2014, DCP, 108m
Alex Ross Perry’s third feature heralds the arrival of a bold new voice in American movies. Even more than in his critically lauded The Color Wheel, Perry draws on literary models (mainly Philip Roth and William Gaddis) to achieve a brazen mixture of bitter humor and unexpected pathos. In this sly, very funny portrait of artistic egomania, Jason Schwartzman stars as Philip Lewis Friedman, a precocious literary star anticipating the publication of his second novel. Philip is a caustic narcissist, but the film, shot with tremendous agility on Super-16mm by Sean Price Williams, leaves his orbit frequently, lingering on the perspectives of his long-suffering photographer girlfriend, Ashley, (Elisabeth Moss) and his hero, the Roth-like literary lion Ike Zimmerman (Jonathan Pryce), who himself considers Philip a major talent. A film about callow ambition, Listen Up Philip is itself remarkably poised, a knowing, rueful account of how pain and insecurity transfigure themselves as anger but also as art. A Tribeca Film release.
The 50-Year Argument
Martin Scorsese & David Tedeschi, USA, 2014, DCP, 96m
The New York Review of Books, a renowned NY literary institution that’s played a substantial role in American cultural and political life gets the royal treatment in this celebration of a half-century of critical engagement and dissent. Interweaving the history and evolution of the publication, founded by Robert B. Silvers and Barbara Epstein (in reaction to what they considered the impoverished state of book reviewing in The New York Times!), with an examination of its amazing track record of wrestling with the urgent issues and inconvenient truths of the day, from Vietnam to Iraq, this look at the magazine and the journalistic values it enshrines is thoughtful, lively, and moving. It’s also a juicy compilation of greatest hits and historical bull’s-eyes, with guest appearances by James Baldwin, Gore Vidal, Susan Sontag, Norman Mailer, Joan Didion, and a host of other literary and political luminaries.
Mike Leigh, UK, 2014, DCP, 149m
Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner is certainly a portrait of a great artist and his time, but it is also a film about the human problem of… others. Timothy Spall’s grunting, unkempt J.M.W. Turner is always either working or thinking about working. During the better part of his interactions with patrons, peers, and even his own children, he punches the clock and makes perfunctory conversation, while his mind is clearly on the inhuman realm of the luminous. After the death of his beloved father (Paul Jesson), Turner creates a way station of domestic comfort with a cheerful widow (Marion Bailey), and he maintains his artistic base at his family home, kept in working order by the undemonstrative and ever-compliant Hannah (Dorothy Atkinson). But his stays in both houses are only rest periods between endless and sometimes punishing journeys in search of a closer and closer vision of light. A rich, funny, moving, and extremely clear-eyed film about art and its creation. A Sony Pictures Classics release.
Frederick Wiseman, USA/France, 2014, DCP, 180m
Frederick Wiseman’s glorious new film is about the energies of, and around, painting—discussing, framing, mounting, lighting, repairing, restoring, creating, and, perhaps most of all, looking at painting. This is a film of color, light, and sensuous action, in the artwork on the walls and within the universe of London’s great National Gallery itself. In fact, the dividing line between the paintings and the life around them dissolves almost immediately, as Wiseman attunes us to pure response: the individual’s response to the paintings, the painter’s response to the subject at hand, the filmmaker’s response to the people, activities, and light around him. There are discussions of budgetary concerns and social media, but the film and the people within it are always drawn back to the magnetic power of the art itself. National Gallery is a film of faces: the faces of those looking and the faces of those who look back from the canvases, in an endless, joyful exchange.
Bennett Miller, USA, 2014, DCP, 134m
Bennett Miller’s quietly intense and meticulously crafted new film deals with the tragic story of billionaire John E. du Pont and the brothers and championship wrestlers Dave and Mark Schultz recruited by du Pont to create a national wrestling team on his family’s sprawling property in Pennsylvania. Miller builds his film detail by detail, and he takes us deep into the rarefied world of the delusional du Pont, a particularly exotic specimen of ensconced all-American old money and privilege. Miller’s film is a powerfully physical experience, and the simmering conflicts between his characters are expressed in their stances, their stillnesses, their physiques, and, most of all, their moves in the wrestling arena. At the core is a trio of perfectly meshed and absolutely stunning performances from Mark Ruffalo as Dave, Channing Tatum as Mark, and an almost unrecognizable Steve Carell as the fatally dissociated du Pont. Foxcatcher offers us a vivid portrait of a side of American life in the ’80s that has never been touched in movies. A Sony Pictures Classics release.
Clouds of Sils Maria
Olivier Assayas, Switzerland/Germany/France, 2014, DCP, 124m
English and French with English subtitles
Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) is a middle-aged actress who soared to stardom in her twenties in a play called Maloja Snake, in which she created the role of a ruthless young woman named Sigrid who engages in a power game with her older boss. Now an established international actress, Maria is considering the role of the older woman in a heavily promoted revival, with an infamous young superstar (Chloë Grace Moretz) as Sigrid. Maria and her savvy personal assistant (Kristen Stewart) prepare for the production at a secluded spot in the Swiss Alps, in a series of stunning scenes that are the beating heart of Olivier Assayas’s brilliant new film. What begins as a chronicle of an actress going through the paces of celebrity culture (fashion shoots, official dinners, interviews, Internet rumors) gradually develops into something more powerfully mysterious: a close meditation on time and how one comes to terms with its passage. An IFC Films release.
Maps to the Stars
David Cronenberg, Canada/Germany, 2014, DCP, 111m
David Cronenberg takes Bruce Wagner’s script—a pitch-black Hollywood satire—chills it down, and gives it a near-tragic spin. The terrible loneliness of narcissism afflicts every character from the fading star Havana (Julianne Moore, who won the Best Actress Award at Cannes for her nervy performance) to the available-for-anything chauffeur (Robert Pattinson) to the entire Weiss family, played by John Cusack, Olivia Williams, Evan Bird, and Mia Wasikowska. The last two are brother and sister, damaged beyond repair and fated to repeat the perverse union of their parents. And yet, in their murderous rages, they have the purity of avenging angels, taking revenge on a culture that needs to be put out of its misery—or so it must seem to them. Cronenberg’s visual strategy physically isolates the characters from one another, so that their occasional violent connections pack a double whammy. An eOne Films release.
Paul Thomas Anderson, USA, 2014, 148m
Paul Thomas Anderson’s wild and entrancing new movie, the very first adaptation of a Thomas Pynchon novel, is a cinematic time machine, placing the viewer deep within the world of the paranoid, hazy L.A. dope culture of the early ’70s. It’s not just the look (which is ineffably right, from the mutton chops and the peasant dresses to the battered screen doors and the neon glow), it’s the feel, the rhythm of hanging out, of talking yourself into a state of shivering ecstasy or fear or something in between. Joaquin Phoenix goes all the way for Anderson (just as he did in The Master) playing Doc Sportello, the private investigator searching for his ex-girlfriend Shasta (Katherine Waterston, a revelation), menaced at every turn by Josh Brolin as the telegenic police detective “Bigfoot” Bjornsen. Among the other members of Anderson’s mind-boggling cast are Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro, Martin Short, Owen Wilson, and Jena Malone. A trip, and a great American film by a great American filmmaker. A Warner Bros. Pictures release.
March 1, 2015
Marah Strauch, USA/Norway/UK, 2014, DCP, 96m
Marah Strauch’s jubilant, evocative movie tells the incredible story of Carl Boenish, the exuberant inventor of BASE jumping (parachuting from a fixed object), and his beloved wife, soulmate, and diving partner, Jean. After graduating from USC and doing a stint as an engineer at Hughes Aircraft, Boenish devoted himself to “freefall cinematography” (he is credited with “Special Aerial Photography” on John Frankenheimer’s The Gypsy Moths) and many of the breathtaking images in Strauch’s movie were drawn from footage that Carl and his team shot for a series of sky-diving shorts (Jean came aboard after they were married in 1979). As demonstrated and embodied in Strauch’s film, Boenish was much more just than a thrill-seeker, and his jumps off of taller and taller bridges, buildings, and peaks throughout the world were done in the spirit of joy and freedom, which together comprise the true subject of this exultant and heart-stopping film experience.